Kendall Smith scored 24 points for the Matadors, but UC Irvine were able to withstand a late rally to pull out the victory by a score of 83-80.
Irvine came out of the gates firing, using eight points from senior guard Luke Nelson to give them an early 10-4 lead in the opening minutes.
The Matadors battled back, using 11 points from Smith over the next six minutes to cut the deficit to 20-18. After a Smith free throw finally got CSUN even at 29 with 7:30 remaining, the Anteaters responded with a 10-2 run to push their lead back to eight.
Smith and Nelson each finished the half leading their teams with 14 points, as UC Irvine took a 45-38 lead into the locker room.
The second half started much like the first, with the Anteaters pushing their lead to as many as 11 in the minutes following the break. Despite the rough start, the Matadors were able to keep the game within striking distance and made a push in the final minutes.
Two free throws from Darin Johnson with 1:02 left in the game got CSUN within one point at 79-78, and two more from Aaron Parks narrowed it to one again with five seconds to play.
The Matadors had one final shot to tie the game, but a half-court heave at the buzzer was unsuccessful and the Anteaters pulled out the narrow victory.
Smith led the team with 24 points and Johnson scored 19 in the defeat. CSUN struggled to move the ball as the game progressed, finishing with only five team assists on the night. They were also out-rebounded 37-27.
The loss is the Matador’s third straight after coming up short in tough games against Cal Poly and UC Davis this past week. They are back on the hardwood next Thursday as they travel to take on Cal Poly at 7:00 p.m.